Ponderings

Surviving a Toxic Workplace: Five Thoughtful Tips (Get Out)

I’ve worked in a variety of settings over my career. Some of them have been toxic from day one; some slowly spoiled over time like a carton of milk, forgotten at the back of the fridge. No job is perfect , but when your work starts affecting your physical health, gives you severe anxiety, and makes you think of taking a sick day every morning when the alarm goes off–it may be time to move on.

Here are just a few of the strategies I’ve used that have helped me in previous jobs. Best of luck to you in your journey.

  1. Create your escape plan. I borrowed this from a YouTube video (or several) I watched years ago when I was stuck in an unhealthy work environment. Their advice was similar–make a plan to get out. Whether it’s through building up your savings, applying to jobs after work, taking night classes, putting in a request for a transfer…Sit down and put it together. A boat without wind or direction is just sitting in place. Accept that it may take time, but the earlier you start, the earlier you’ll get out.
  2. Create a good night routine. Anxiety can bubble up at night big time when you dread going into work the next day. You can replay stories in your mind, dwell on mistakes you made, or just build up work tasks into bigger monsters than they are.
    Consider bringing items into your bedroom that help you relax and bring you comfort, like soft blankets, soft lighting, or a good book to read. These will be ways to relax your mind and get a good night’s sleep. There are also many YouTube videos online for free with relaxing, sleep time or soothing music. Warm baths, exercise, and hot cups of tea are also other, low cost ways to relax. Journaling, prayer, and stretching are others.
  3. Eat the Frog. This is a funny saying, not to be taken literally. When you do get to work, try this approach. Eat the frog is a way of saying do the hardest thing first on your task list. Getting it out of the way can relieve some of the pressure you’ve built up and give you more brain space to focus on smaller tasks.
  4. Do What You Can; Don’t Stress Over What You Can’t Control. You’re leaving. You’re not going to be here forever. The building did not catch on fire and crumble to ash before you started working there; it won’t fall apart as you leave, most likely. And besides, the last time you checked, miracle worker was not on your resume. Do what you can to the best of your ability, be transparent about your work to whom you report to, and then clock out. You’re not here to burn bridges, you’re just looking to cross them and take care of yourself. If the rest of your coworkers can’t see the Emperor’s New Clothes for what they are and want to swim in toxicity, it’s their problem, not yours.
  5. Focus & Refocus: While at work, focus on your work. Get your tasks done; leave it at your desk and go home. Recharge, rejuvenate, re-be-you. Your job does not define your worth as a human being; it never has, and it never will. Refocus on what is important to you. Think of ways, or future jobs, that can better meet your values while still paying your bills and supporting your future goals. This will help you find your next job, or step, in life.

Cheers and take care.

Brief Humor & Check-Ins

Dusty Corners & Humility (Humor)

I’ve been wandering around the dusty corners of life, keeping my corner of the universe as tidy as I can, re-adapting to the daily commute and being back in an office environment full of gaggling coworkers and a few non-gaggling ones as well. I was luckily able to work remotely during the pandemic, but now it’s all hands on deck, Delta variant be darned apparently. My colleagues are generally nice people, and a few I like more than others, but this introvert cannot handle gaggling-giggling-goggling nonsense for more than a few hours when working. Then it’s just time to break out Green Eggs & Ham, join the Ministry of Silly Walks and call it a day. I work better alone in my quiet writing room, in other words. But one can adapt. Eventually, I’ve heard.

I took a phone call at work the other day, week, month (what is time?). On the other end of the line was a very prestigious person. Like, sparkly titles, important looking framed papers with random Latin, shiny pieces of metal strung with ribbons that make your neck itch–that kind of thing. It was the first time I had spoke to said person, and I was helping them complete a project: “Do this, not that. No, that goes there; yes you’ve done it now. No, no you fool! Oh, it’s a disaster now; we’ll have to start over. Did wild hyenas raise you? Give it here…just turn off your monitor and go home.”

While I asked questions to help them, they confessed something that struck me: “I’m not sure about many things” the caller said with a jovial, laissez faire chuckle. If this had been a comedy sitcom, that’s where I would have turned in my dainty chair and did a perfectly timed disbelieving blink, staring aghast into the camera lens. Then the audience would have roared and applauded, and the sitcom would have moved on to another scene.

“That’s a cut, Mrs. Author. Well done! Now, we’ll rehearse the scene where they give you a project that’s due in less than twenty four hours. Short notice is always such a hoot!”

This being real life, I instead quickly recovered myself, grabbed the football and ran it down to the end zone, post haste. Then I tossed the football down and did a lively dance, remembered I hate football analogies, and hung up. We got the project done. Six points for us, and here’s the question for the extra field goal point:

Do any of us actually know what we’re doing? You kick and…we wait for the answer.